In Town For A Funeral, We Drive Past Our Old House And See It Is For Sale
so we three sisters stumble home and find a widow
wandering from room to room, with a fragile smile,
as if she knows there’s someone missing from our tale.
As we trail graveyard gravel along her doormat she tells us hers:
We moved here to be near the sea but within a year, he’d died.
We say we’re sorry and do not glide across the hallway ice-rink
the way we used to, or lasso our scarves around the banisters, but we slide our dusty shoes
in spirals of our past and, when her back is turned, twirl arthritic fingers
over stories in the walls, lingering in tiny swirls of punctuation, familiar under years of paint.
On the news, balaclava’d, black-clothed men are abseiling again
down white stucco walls, exploding grenades, marking thirty years
since the SAS raid on the Iranian Embassy at Prince’s Gate.
The smoke clears and I’m standing on the balcony held captive by the chaos,
dogs barking desperately like it’s the worst Bonfire Night of their lives, scenting
death, men shouting, women screaming, men shot diagonally across the chest.
The cupboards, my sister mouths, shaping them with her elegant hands, the alcove now
as bare as a face with its features blown out; lilac tree still stands, the rest of our garden
tidied away; coal shed; concertina doors – no fathoming what serenely waits to be reclaimed,
the associations that we make across continents and years; balaclavas
our mother knitted to protect our ears from seaside winds; little boxes
of Iranian dates at Christmas; black clothes for funerals and raids.
The bathroom’s small, the widow says, as we huddle close to where our family
tidemark has been rubbed away and listen to each other’s breath, the moans
of bones of brick and plaster, the gush of the boiler’s blood. You feel a kind of love
for someone if you’ve shared a house. When the hostages saw they’d sat on the ground
with their hands on their heads, thrown their weapons down but were shot anyway
they stood between the SAS and the remaining terrorist.
Our mother died here, I’d like to say, in our dreams she’s trapped here still.
But I don’t need to tell her, nor anyone who’s loved as well. We form a quiet procession
down the stairs, following behind her, mourners in reverse, gathering the strange logic
of dreams, strewn along the route to our front door. A son will pull the trigger.
Some nights he won’t. The widow will spread his winter coat like a blanket on the beach
and wait for him to reach her. Sometimes he’ll telephone from the television to say he can’t.
A daughter will unravel her long, black scarf and lasso it to the balcony. A sister will storm
the burning, Regency room. A lover will catch the bullets, resuscitate the one who was
thrown outside. Men with blown off faces will glide along this hallway, wearing balaclavas
on their feet instead of skates, not minding they’ve had to wait for thirty years
for one kind thought, our mother leading them towards the open door.
Josephine Corcoran has been writing poems since 2009, having previously written plays and short fiction, some of which have been published, performed on stage and broadcast on BBC R4. She has studied writing on Arvon courses, at Chichester University and at the University of East Anglia, from where she received her MA in Creative Writing. Poems have been published in And Other Poems, Ink, Sweat & Tears, The Pygmy Giant
, the anthology A Complicated Way of Being Ignored
and The New Writer
and are forthcoming in Under the Radar
and Domestic Cherry 3
. She was a runner-up at Bridport in 2010 and won The Stafford Poetry Competition judged by Michael Hulse in 2012. Josephine is a member of Blue Gate Poets, Swindon, teaches writing in community settings and schools in Wiltshire, where she lives, and edits the poetry blog And Other Poems